There is no doubt that the San Diego Padres have some very healthy competitions taking place in camp presently.
A.J. Preller and the Padres’ management team has structured it so that the team has multiple players competing for several openings on the team. Competition is very healthy in the game of baseball and sometimes in order to get the best from a player they must go out and work as though their job is on the line.
In Padres’ major league camp, there are at least a dozen men who have no clear idea whether or not they will make the major league roster come March 29. That is a good thing. These men will have to play through the nerves and perform in the last few weeks of camp. Now is the time to show Andy Green what you got.
With 40-man roster limitations, the Padres will have a hard time keeping all the names on their team come April. Players like Christian Villanueva can’t be sent to the minors. If the Padres want to retain this talented infielder, they will need to keep him on their 25-man roster on Opening Day.
Here is a look at what’s going on presently in camp and who could be made attainable as the season nears:
Second Base/Third Base
This is a mess. But in a good way.
At second, Carlos Asuaje looks established at the position, but Cory Spangenberg is lurking as a possibility, and then there is Jose Pirela who needs playing time somewhere. Asuaje is a top of the order hitter, and a perfect fit for the #2 hole in the lineup behind Manuel Margot and in front of Wil Myers. He has a solid glove and a tremendous work ethic. He also provides the team with a great presence in the locker room as he is described as a valued teammate by many.
Spangenberg is the team’s former first round pick, who has struggled with health in his major league career. The two men are 26 years old and bat from the left-handed batter’s box, but they have little else in common. Asuaje is a slasher who gets on base and grinds down pitchers. Spangenberg has developing pop and the ability to drive the ball, but has displayed issues in the past remaining consistent with his at bats. At one point last season, Spangenberg was playing everyday and batting fifth or sixth for the club. He showed some real power potential last season, but has struggled transitioning his plus speed to the base paths. This is a big year for his future in the league.
Then there is the Jose Pirela factor. He was the team’s best offensive player last season and must be given an opportunity to play. Right? In camp, he has taken ground balls at first and second base as well as left field. Pirela is an enigma and could be trade bait, but I don’t think many teams realize how good he was last season for the Friars. Preller is not one to get pennies on the dollar, so Pirela will probably stay.
Moving to third base, there is the battle between Christian Villanueva and Chase Headley. The Padres had to take on Headley’s salary to get their hands on Bryan Mitchell from the Yankees. There was immediate talk after the trade that Headley could be moved, but that talk has died down dramatically. At $13 million for the 2018 season, Headley is a virtual lock to make this roster in late March. Villanueva has been killing the ball and the Padres cannot afford to expose him to waivers. He will be picked up by someone. At this point, both would probably make the team.
As far as a trade goes, Headley would be the priority for the team to move, but that seems unlikely at this point. Spangenberg and Asuaje are in a fierce battle and you could see the Padres moving one of them to clear room this season. Luis Urias is basically major league ready, and neither Asuaje or Spangenberg will prevent the Padres from giving him plenty of playing time when he is ready. At 20, Urias is the future of the franchise — a very bright future. You have to figure the Padres will need to move an infielder before the season starts.
Wil Myers and Manuel Margot are guaranteed starting jobs at this point. Beyond that, anything can happen. Hunter Renfroe and Franchy Cordero seem to be destined for a left field platoon to start the season. That seems possible, but the Padres hardly want to relegate either to a platoon role. Both are way too young to be written off at this point in their major league careers. Each could make the team, but there are a few other men on the 40-man who are in jeopardy of not making this team.
Travis Jankowski and Matt Szczur are both on the 40-man and are looking for a bench job in 2018. Jankowski, 26, is a great defender and has plus speed on the base paths. He has struggled to get on base, but his left-handed bat could be valuable for a team. Szczur was claimed from the Cubs last season and also has plus defensive skills. The right-handed hitter can play all three outfield spots and showed a great eye at the plate last season, walking 32 times in 172 at bats resulting in a .358 on base percentage. The Padres are emphasizing getting on base more and Szczur seems to fit that mold.
Then there are names like Jose Pirela and Alex Dickerson. Pirela WILL make this team and can play the infield as well as the outfield. Dickerson is presently hurt with a sore elbow and will not factor in until May or June at the very earliest. That gives the Padres some breathing room in the outfield, but there isn’t enough room for everyone. Both Pirela and Spangenberg can play the outfield, so they could have more value when it all said and done compared to a Jankowski or Szczur. Again, Pirela will make this team. He was the best hitter last season and has continued to rake this spring. He could very easily be named the starting left fielder.
The market on Travis Jankowski could be decent. He smacked two homers on Saturday in Cactus League play, which was a surprise. This offensive output proves that he does have some worth with the bat and is not just a weak-contact leadoff hitter. If a team is looking for center field help and a potential leadoff hitter, he could be an undervalued pickup for them. The Padres would probably be looking for prospects or pitchers in return via trade, but you never know. If the Padres really wanted to make a splash they could package Hunter Renfroe or Franchy Cordero for a solid addition (either in a prospect haul or solid major league help). In doing that, the other player would be allowed to get ample playing time with no pressure of someone looking over their shoulder. Not a likely possibility, but anything can really happen when it comes to constructing this club. We already know several teams contacted the Padres about Renfroe after Wil Myers was moved into the outfield. Stay tuned.
The Padres are not pitching-heavy presently, so dealing a pitcher seems like a strange idea, but hear me out. The team is loaded with relief options presently. Not all will make this team but, if the right offer comes along, something could be done. Brad Hand was extended over the winter as the Padres now have three years of control over the lefty. Trade talks on him have died down, but teams can get really desperate when the season begins. The Padres will weigh all options.
Another interesting name is that of Luis Perdomo. He has some trade value and the Padres could package him in the correct deal. Perdomo is a solid mid-rotation starter, but with the emergence of young hurlers like Joey Lucchesi, the Dominican might be deemed expendable. The perfect deal would have to come along and the stars would have to align on a potential deal, but nothing is out of the realm of possibility when we are talking about A.J. Preller’s mission to build this farm system and organization. The final weeks of Cactus League play will be very important in shaping this team for 2018 and beyond. There is still much to do in Padres land, and there is no rest for the weary.